Resistance and tolerance to mixed-nematode infections in chicken genotypes with extremely different growth rates
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Fast growing broilers are less able to cope with fitness related challenges. As the allocation of metabolic resources may be traded off between performance and defence functions in parasitized hosts, we hypothesized that fast growing broilers are more sensitive to mixed nematode infections compared with slower growing genotypes under the same environmental conditions. Therefore, we compared male birds of genotypes selected for either meat production (Ross-308, R) or egg production (Lohmann Brown Plus, LB) or for both purposes (Lohmann Dual. LD), to assess their resistance and tolerance to mixed nematode infections with Ascaridia galli and Heterakis gallinarum. While infections reduced feed intake in all three genotypes, feed conversion efficiency was not affected. Infections impaired growth performance only in R birds, indicating lower tolerance in the fast growing genotype compared with slower growing LB and LD genotypes. Impaired tolerance in R birds was associated with a relative nutrient scarcity due to an infection-induced lower feed intake. Resistance to experimentally induced infections depended on host genotype as well as on the worm species involved. Overall, the A. galli burden was higher in R than LB, whereas the burden of LD was not different from that of R and LB. In contrast, the H. gallinarum burden of first generation worms was similar in the three genotypes. Susceptibility to re-infection with H. gallinarum was higher in LB than in LD, whereas very low levels of re-infection were observed in R birds. Our data collectively suggest that resistance and tolerance to mixed nematode infections are sensitive to growth rate in chickens. These differences amongst genotypes may partly be associated with a mismatch between the actual nutrient supply and genotype-specific nutrient requirements.